My SF Bike Commute Experience and Economics

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A bike commuter (not me)

I spent my last two years in San Francisco cycling to work from Outer Sunset to SOMA (13.6 miles round trip) and it was a blast. Instead of being crammed into a crowded bus, paying an arm and a leg for parking, or rolling the dice on Lyft Line/Uber Pool, I was breathing in fresh air zipping through Golden Gate Park. Here was my commute on Google Maps!

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Downhill AM, Uphill PM

If you haven’t tried bike commuting, I highly recommend giving it a shot. San Francisco was an ideal place to bike commute 200+ days a year due to favorable weather conditions, but you could likely make it work for some # of days during the year in other places.

Here are a few thoughts on the benefits of bike commuting.

HEALTHY

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. You can make a huge dent into this number (if the commute is short) or even exceed it by a wide margin (if the commute is longer) by bike commuting.

There were exhausting days after work when I didn’t feel like hitting the gym or lacing up the running sneakers, but I wouldn’t feel that bad about missing a workout since I always put some cycling miles in.

My weekly commute was 68 miles and over 400 minutes of exercise, exceeding the AHA recommendation :). An added bonus is that you can develop some nice quads!

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Quads

CHEAP

Taking public transportation costs money. Lyft/Uber costs money. Cycling is free…kind of. You do have to buy a bike ($400+ for a decent commuter new from a store) and occasionally spend some $ on maintenance, but as I’ll demonstrate below, it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper.

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Bike assumes depreciation of $100/year. Other transit forms assume 246 working days in a year times 2 for each trip.

Based on these calculations, I saved over $1000 per year bike commuting instead of taking public transportation (MUNI) or using a ride share service.

Smile when you save $$$

FAST

Believe it or not, in many situations bike commuting can actually be faster than taking public transit. It would have taken me 10 or more extra minutes to go to work if I went with public transit. That’s assuming the public transit comes on time, which happens as frequently as rain in San Francisco, which is to say, it’s uncommon. With public transit you waste precious time waiting around for a bus/subway to come, but not with a bike!

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Public Transportation (13 minutes slower!)

DOWNSIDES

OK, so it wasn’t all roses during my two years of bike commuting. Here are a few examples of bad things that happened to me while biking.

  • Got hit by a car door
  • Crashed after getting my wheels caught on a MUNI track
  • Drenched riding in down-pouring rain
  • Yelled at by drivers
  • Bike was stolen

Despite all this, I’m still a big believer in bike commuting and highly recommend that everyone consider it. It may be more economical/faster than you think!

I’m still evaluating the transit options in New York…but these Citibikes look enticing!

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Citibikes hanging out in NYC

Retail, consumer goods, and technology aficionado. Fitness enthusiast. Proud Texas Longhorn and Columbia Biz MBA.

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